Tourists give IRCTC's Mumbai darshan scheme a wide berth

With its vibrant culture, architectural heritage and diverse cuisines, Mumbai is a tourist’s paradise. Recognising this, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Limited (IRCTC) decided to start its own Mumbai Darshan services last year, to give tourists an alternative to the tours conducted by private operators. Eight months into the venture, however, this Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) is on the verge of abandoning its scheme, as there have hardly been any takers for it.

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The scheme was first initiated by IRCTC in September last year. Confirming the development, Virender Singh, group general manager of IRCTC, said, “The Mumbai Darshan scheme has received lukewarm response, even though we tried to provide better services than those already on offer, and at cheaper rates.”

IRCTC officials said that they had been advertising this scheme on their website but to no avail. For a charge of Rs 500, the bus tour offered tourists an all-in-one trip to all the city’s hotspots, including architectural landmarks and spots of religious significance. IRCTC had also tied up with the authorities of Siddhivinayak temple and ISKCON for the service. “We wanted to provide food from the restaurant inside ISKCON to patrons, and also arranged for a special queue for them at Siddhivinayak temple,” added Singh.

IRCTC being a railway organisation, IRCTC also gave access to rail heritage museums at Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), which are denied to other private operators. The rail trips they had started offering from Mumbai to the temple town of Shirdi have also failed to generate much enthusiasm. For this service, IRCTC has allotted an air-conditioned and a sleeper coach each inside the Mumbai-Shirdi long distance train for its patrons. However, officials are of the opinion that tourists prefer the commercial four-wheelers that take devotees to Shirdi from Mumbai, owing to their easy availability, and the privacy that they offer. Not only are they faster, but they also give travelers the option of making stopovers anywhere along the route.

On Monday, the state and Mumbai Rail Vikas Corporation (MRVC) approved of the proposal for the conduct of a feasibility study for the extension of the rail corridor on the Virar-Dahanu 3rd and 4th lines, from Panvel to Karjat. If it materialises, it will extend the suburban and passenger train lines all the way to Dahanu on the Western line. It will also make it easy to commute to Karjat from the ends of the Harbour and Central lines. The Western Railway hasn’t yet finished work on the Virar-Dahanu section and has promised to open it for suburban services by next year. There are also plans for Virar-Vasai-Diva-Panvel and Thane-Panvel lines that would connect Western, Central and Harbour lines on the 250-km long suburban section. The approval was obtained from Additional Chief Secretary TC Benjamin, MD, MRVC Rakesh Saxsena, and other senior government officials. 

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